Curried Chicken & Quinoa Meatloaf & Fluffy Quinoa Salad – Comfort Food from the Heart of Her Royal Highness, Queen Mother Cafe

Leave a comment

DSCN9576

*Trumpets and horns tooting in the distance*  “Hear ye, hear ye!  We are gathered here today to mark the celebration of winter comfort food in the wake of the treacherous weather that has descended upon our fair land.  Winter comfort food shall not be taken lightly; it is of utmost importance that we, the masses, surround thyselves with warmth, flavour and heartiness over the coming months in efforts to warm and soothe thy soul and fill thy belly amidst snow, rain and freezing cold.  Thou shall read this post and proceed to drool over the plethora of scrumptious delights Her Royal Highness, Queen Mother Cafe, has to offer: the brightest and heartiest of salads, the most mouthwatering of sandwiches, the savouriest of pasta and noodle dishes, the most scrumptious of burgers, and the most decadent of desserts.  Take note my fellow foodies, for there is only one Royal Highness in the land.”

It’s time to cozy up to some really awesome comfort food in the downtown core on Queen Street West at Queen Mother Cafe!  After passing by this beautiful establishment (serving food in the city since 1978!) more times than I can remember over the years, I fianlly put my foot down and said, “I’m going, no more putting this off!” back at the end of November.  And after that first time, I mentally slotted Queen Mother Cafe into my top 10 favourites, just like that.  It drives me crazy (in a good way!) when I find or visit a place that I end up loving so much I want to go back over and over forever and ever.  It’s one thing to want to come back on your own, it’s a whole ‘nother thing to tell others that they MUST ALSO GO OR ELSE.

DSCN9559

DSCN9560

DSCN9561

And you all know me well enough to know that it’s rare for me to order the exact same thing from a place because 1) I like variety and 2) I can’t blog about the same dish twice so I purposely choose different things so that I’ll always have new content for Ate by Ate even though there might be one particular dish that I adore to pieces.  Well, I’m confessing that I broke my own rule because I actually went back in December and ordered the same thing because IT WAS THAT AMAZINGLY DELICIOUS.  I didn’t order a salad the first time though and I ordered a different dessert so at least I did that!

DSCN9563

DSCN9564

There are so many things to love about Queen Mother Cafe.  For starters, it’s cozy and warm and intimate and homey with Victorian flair.  Second, it’s so close to Osgoode subway station and walkable from Eaton Centre.  Finally, and most importantly, their menu and food leaves me awestruck.  Multi-faceted doesn’t even begin to describe how fantastic it is.  There are meat dishes, vegetarian and vegan dishes, light fare, hearty fare, bar food, comfort food (which, to some, could be one in the same!) and so many different textures and ethnic flavours: Thai, Chinese, Indian, Middle Eastern, and French just to name a handful.  There is no shortage of variety on their menu as well, with choices ranging from Thai noodles to grilled sandwiches to grain salads to mouthwatering burgers, providing the perfect landscape for picky eaters and larger parties with different diets and preferences.  In addition to their regular menu, they offer daily specials and a weekend brunch menu on Sundays.

DSCN9575 - Copy

DSCN9577

What we have here is their fluffy quinoa salad and their to-die-for curried chicken and quinoa meatloaf burger (oh we’ll get to dessert in the next post!  And if you’re wondering, no, I did not eat all this by myself!  I shared.)  If you love quinoa, you need to have these dishes in your life because they are game-changers.  Their quinoa salad ($10.95) is a meal-sized salad consisting of quinoa, chickpeas, crumbled goat cheese, sundried tomatoes and red peppers, a little bit of diced red onion, lots of fresh flat-leaf parsley (I love parsley like nobody’s business so I happily inhaled it all) and baby salad greens, all tossed in a light and refreshing vinaigrette of lemon, herbs, garlic and olive oil.

The great thing about this salad is the lightness and all the different textures in it.  The goat cheese is very creamy, you have the crunch from the parsley and chickpeas, a little savoury flavour from the sundried tomatoes and peppers and the greens complement the quinoa giving it even more body and fullness.

DSCN9569

Okay.  The curried chicken and quinoa meatloaf burger ($13.95; all burgers and sandwiches are served with your choice of Yukon gold fries or salad).  I honestly didn’t know what to expect when they brought my plate to me.  I just knew I wanted it because it sounded so delicious from the description: “lean ground chicken and quinoa with onions, celery, bell peppers, lime leaf and curry, oven baked and nestled on a toasted bun with baby arugula and roasted tomatoes”.  Would the meatloaf be like a big meatball on a bun?  Would it be a round grain patty?  Would it more like a sloppy joe type of style?

When my plate was placed down, angels sang and harps started playing.  I could not believe how beautiful it looked.  A perfect 1-inch loaf slice of, hands down, one of the juiciest, most amazing things I have ever tasted in my life!  The curry flavour was bang on, the meatloaf was so moist and the ground chicken and quinoa complemented each other so well because the ground meat gave it depth and body while the quinoa kept it from being too stodgy or heavy.  The roasted tomatoes lent a little bit of juicy acidity to it and the arugula kept it bright and crunchy.  It was one of those dishes that struck the perfect balance.  It was hearty and made you full without making you feel uncomfortable in the end.  On the contrary, this will leave you feeling energized and so good afterward.

DSCN9568

DSCN9570

DSCN9574

And the bun!  I’ll be the first to admit that I shy away from sandwiches and burgers sometimes because I’m just not a fan of some of the buns people serve.  Sometimes they’re too dry, too hard, too doughy or too bland (or even a combination of all of them).  But on this burger?  Holy mother of pearl.  The toasted bun is so soft and light on the outside and crispy on the inside and more than capable of holding the entire meatloaf burger fillings together.

I can’t praise Queen Mother Cafe enough; it is a gem in this city.  In the next post, we’ll talk dessert!

*****

Queen Mother Cafe is located at 208 Queen Street West in the downtown core just steps away from Osgoode subway station, situated between St. Patrick Street and Duncan Street.  They are opened 7 days a week, serving lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday (11:30 am to 1 am) and weekend brunch and dinner on Sundays (11:30 am to midnight 12 am).  You can visit their official website HERE to view their info and menu.

Advertisements

Mini Marshmallow Mania! Ringing in the New Year with Cookie Bar Baking – Marshmallow-Rainbow Chip Cookie Bars!

2 Comments

DSCN9543

Happy new year, everyone!  Despite the awful weather we had over the holidays here I hope everyone was still able to celebrate and have a happy holiday in some way, shape or form with family and friends.  Even though it was beyond frustrating to have an event of this magnitude happen just before Christmas (the scrambling, the worrying, the damage, everything.  I have never seen so much ice, so much white and so many streets blocked with yellow tape in my life) I know it could have been much worse.  My house didn’t lose power during the ice storm (a few outages here and there for a minute or so at a time but nothing serious) so I am beyond grateful and thankful that I was able to stay in my home during the aftermath.

Amidst all the craziness I managed to squeak in a little bit of baking, photographing and food blogging (not as much as I had initially planned but there was no way around it, not with entire neighbourhoods, streets and streetcars without power!) so I’ll be sharing the goods with you all over the next little while.  It may be back to the grind for many folks tomorrow but that doesn’t mean we can’t still have some holiday fun here!

DSCN9526

DSCN9539

2013 was full of so many highs and not-so-highs and while the latter part of the year didn’t exactly end the way I wanted or expected it to (in more ways than one), I do have some really awesome memories to look back on: taking my very first plane ride ever to Florida in February (and eating macarons from the Miromar Outlets in Fort Myers!), being a Macaron Day ambassador in March, attending and being a part of FBC’s first food blogging conference at Hockley Valley in April, taking the train for the first time to Ottawa in May, meeting Chef Michael Smith in June (I had the honour of eating hand-shucked oysters from him!), doing Summerlicious in July, celebrating my birthday in August, having one of the most amazing afternoon teas with my best friend in September (blog post in the works!), meeting Rosie Daykin at a food blogging event promoting her new Butter Baked Goods cookbook at Random House in October, buying teacups at my favourite antique market in November, and of course, celebrating Christmas in December with my best friend, my boyfriend and other friends in true foodie fashion.

DSCN9544

Sometimes I let the negative energy get to me (struggling to balance full-time work and blogging and everything/one else in my life and the not-so-highs that happened this year that I won’t care to repeat or hash out here) so much so that at times it feels crippling, emotionally and mentally.  I know I’m surrounded by so many good, wonderful and happy things though so I try my best to focus on them and I’m determined to make just as many, if not more, happy memories in 2014.

DSCN9547

DSCN9540

Baking is therapeutic for me so I had a little fun experimenting over the holidays and this is what came out of it!  I wanted to play around with the Chocolate Chip-Pecan Cookie Bar recipe from my Food & Wine magazine again using some of the baking goodies I had in my cupboard.  I really wanted to make it look festive so I swapped out the plain chocolate chips for rainbow chips in red, white and green, added a layer of miniature marshmallows and a layer of graham crumbs.

So what I did was crush some Honey Maid graham crackers and mix it with some melted butter.  I pressed the crumb mixture into an even layer in a parchment-lined 13×9-inch pan.  I topped it with an even layer of miniature marshmallows and then topped it with the cookie bar batter.  Voila!  A golden, ooey gooey cookie bar dessert!  I honestly just wanted to play around with the miniature marshmallows to see how it would turn out.  They completely melted into a gooey caramelized layer making them super fun to eat.  Keep in mind that this was just a fun experiment on my part, if we want to actually see a distinct layer of white marshmallows, we’ll have to tinker with the recipe.  Try them out and see how you like them!

DSCN9537

Recipe for Holiday Marshmallow-Rainbow Chip Cookie Bars (adapted from Chocolate-Chip-Pecan Cookie Bars recipe from March 2011 issue of Food & Wine magazine).  

Makes 12 big squares or 24 smaller rectangular bars.

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened, divided (1-1/4 sticks or 10 tablespoons)
  • 2 cups graham crumbs (if you are crushing graham crackers from scratch, it’ll take about 28 crackers)
  • 2 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour (*Deb’s Note: the original recipe called for whole wheat pastry flour but I didn’t have any and also didn’t feel like buying any so I just used regular all-purpose flour!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup rainbow chocolate chips (*Deb’s Note: I used a holiday mix of red, white and green.  The original recipe called for semisweet chocolate chips)

Directions

  • Heat oven to 350°F.  Line the bottom of a 13×9-inch baking pan with parchment paper.
  • Reserve 1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick or 4 tablespoons) for later use; melt remaining butter.  Mix graham crumbs with melted butter.  Press graham crumb mixture evenly onto bottom of prepared pan.  Top with miniature marshmallows.
  • Beat the reserved butter and oil with the granulated sugar and brown sugar with an electric mixer until creamy.  Beat in the egg and vanilla until smooth.  In a small bowl, whisk the flour with the baking soda and salt; beat the dry ingredients into the wet mixture at low speed.  Gently fold in the rainbow chips until combined (*Deb’s Note: I just mixed the chips in with my hands so the dough wouldn’t be overmixed)
  • Transfer the dough to the prepared baking pan and press into an even layer over the marshmallows.  Bake 16-18 min. or until lightly browned and toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean.  Cool in pan 10 min.  Using parchment paper “handles”, lift out and cut into squares or bars.